My cousin and I arrived at Ta'leef around maghrib because word around the Bay is they host a potluck iftar every Thursday during Ramadan. In that sense this institution is amazing; there were people there from all over the Bay Area last night. Not many community centers here can say that they have hundreds of people from miles around show up just for iftar. There was no special program last night; it was just a group of young-ish Muslims getting together to share a meal in a nonjudgmental arena.
In that sense, it seemed very much like the average college Muslim student organization iftar. You had all kinds of Muslims in attendance: guys with ponytails, tattoos, kufis; girls with ponytails, tattoos (I'm guessing), hijabs. It was surreal seeing this crowd mixed together during iftar after having been to so many masjid iftars, but of course, this isn't a masjid.
That much was apparent when it was time to pray. Rather than shut down all activity in order to pray, someone merely informed the crowd that they were praying maghrib in the next room and invited those who wanted to pray to join them. Nobody was made to feel as if they had to pray, but conversely religious people didn't feel awkward for taking time out to pray. Oftentimes at mixed events religious people turn into THOSE people, the people who miss out on activities because they have to pray.
Ta'leef does walk a fine line, though, between the liberal and conservative viewpoints. The line to get food was segregated, but men and women were free to sit wherever. This appeased those who want to keep their distance from the opposite gender but also, as an example, let husbands and wives sit next to each other.
This is not the only place in the Bay Area which hosts events that are as free from judgement, but it is one of the few which does it on a regular basis. It also definitely serves a niche of Muslims which many masjids in the Bay Area have failed to serve.
What was also interesting was a lot of people were using this as a stop on their way to MCA, which was finishing the Quran last night in taraweeh. It's very telling that this group chose to cone here for iftar and the drive the 15-20 miles to MCA instead of doing iftar at MCA. MCA just has that reputation of not being as welcoming to all Muslims, and there are definitely many congregants who would flip out if they saw men and women eating iftar together.
Date Visited: August 16, 2012
43170 Osgood Avenue
Fremont, CA 94539
Tag-team Taraweeh: N/A
Size of congregation: 100+
Capacity of center: Seemed close to capacity last night
Parking: Lot, which they share with other businesses and a masjid
Shoe shelves: Yes, but limited
Building: Structure in an office park
Friendliness to women: Any kind of woman can walk in here and she will be welcome. I hope the day never comes when I have to retract that statement.
Friendliness of congregation: Admittedly, this place can be a little intimidating if you're by yourself and don't know anyone. However, the people here are genuinely nice and it's easy to meet new people.